Asda have unfairly dismissed a worker after failing to follow a fair procedure when firing her, a tribunal has found. The employee received a higher refund than what she initially paid for the product.
Manjula Raj joined the British supermarket retailer on 18th February 2003 and worked for 13 years until her dismissal without notice on 3rd December 2016.
Leicester Employment Tribunal heard that Raj returned an electric toothbrush purchased from Asda on 15th October 2016. She admitted to the customer service desk employee she lost the receipt and had forgotten the cost of the product. Raj didn’t show her staff discount card and her colleague gave her a refund of £35 on a gift card.
However, shortly after, Raj purchased some bread from the same customer service desk employee and presented her discount card to receive a 10% discount.
An investigative meeting took place on 30th November 2016 at Asda and Raj was questioned for only paying £13.50 for an item which she received a £35 refund for. She was also asked why she showed her discount card for the bread she bought and not for the refund.
The tribunal heard, Manjula Raj implied the returned electric toothbrush was completely different to the one she had bought and realised it was a mistake when the barcodes were both the same. Raj told the tribunal she was unaware the reduction label had been removed and said her husband could have taken it off. She also stated she ‘forgot’ to show her discount card when returning her product.
A letter dating back to 30th November stated Raj was invited to a disciplinary hearing. The letter identified Raj made a “deliberate attempt to defraud the company” by not presenting her staff discount card. Also, the letter said if her actions were proven and to be classed as gross misconduct offences, she could be dismissed.
A disciplinary hearing took place in December 2016 and Raj revealed the price on the till was £75 when she sought the refund and, as she thought that was incorrect, said she had paid £30 to £35, hence the £35 refund.
According to the tribunal, Raj purchased the toothbrush because it was reduced and the reduction label could have been taken off by one her children. She uses her discount card whenever she makes purchases from the supermarket however she didn’t present it for her refund because she didn’t have her purse on her that day.
Manjula Raj handed in a letter during the hearing which highlighted she had made a mistake and she apologised. Mr Shah, who conducted the disciplinary hearing, stated that Raj had “deliberately obtained a higher refund than she was entitled to” and dismissed her for gross misconduct.
On 9th December, the former Asda employee appealed her dismissal and then on 12th December, she was written to and advised to seek specific appeal grounds. Her 15th December response stated “I do not believe I have any customer complaints or any staff complaints and I have always been punctual in my 13 years at Asda”.
Raj’s appeal was refused as she had submitted her letter too late. Her appeal grounds gave her a deadline to stick too and the letter had been received outside of the deadline. This decision was found to be unfair and the former Asda employee registered her unfair dismissal claim on 5th October 2017.
“I find that the failure to offer or perhaps afford Raj a right of appeals means that the procedure followed by [Asda] was not a procedure that any reasonable employer would have followed and, consequently, the dismissal is unfair on that basis,” stated Judge Evans.
Evans also explained if Asda had followed a fair procedure, Raj would have been dismissed within three weeks of her dismissal date. Also, Evans found her conduct contributed to this and her compensatory and basic awards were reduced in their entirety.
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